Yeti loves Unreal

Over the past few months we have had the pleasure of working with the Epic team on integrating their new Unreal Hair and Fur spec into Yeti which is now publicly available in our 3.5.4 release.

Based on Alembic, an industry standard file format, it provides a more structured description of a groom that may be used with the new hair components in the latest 4.24 release of the Unreal Engine.

We’ve added a few ways of exporting these Unreal Engine compatible Abc files to Yeti including the new -exportUnrealAbc argument for pgYetiCommand that will export the selected Yeti node, as well as an Export Unreal Abc menu item to the main Yeti menu.

Additionally, we’ve introduced the concept of a “live” Alembic export – this means that as you groom in Yeti the Alembic file will be dynamically updated to provide faster feedback in engine.

Please refer to the documentation for more details.

Juice doubles down on Peregrine’s for GMC

Juice recently completed a spot for GMC’s new Sierra AT4 where the hero (we are biased) of the story is a very determined Peregrine Falcon.

We had the pleasure of hearing from Juice’s lighting and grooming artist Jarosław Handrysik and animator Anna Kuczyńska on the process of brining it to life.

Jarosław Handrysik:
The falcon we had to create was pretty demanding but absolutely necessary to the GMC commercial story. However, we didn’t get that much time to bring falcon to life – 20 working days – to start with a model, following up with textures, rigging, animation, feathers set-up and to finish with final render and compositing. As you can imagine, we couldn’t afford a deep R&D.

We have chosen Yeti, which I’ve been working with with some time already. Actually, in 2013 I created with Yeti my very first model – a fox for a crazy project that you may hear of – Ylvis “What Does The Fox Say?”. It has over 887 million watches on YT (sick!). Since then I’ve been constantly working with Yeti and my portfolio was quite vast, that’s why going Yeti was an obvious pick. Yeti is a stable and efficient software with very limited unpleasant-surprising features, the final results are top class, hence there was no need to think it through, as of course, the timing was tight.

Luckily, our client shared with us references – the high-quality peregrine falcon photographs, which were the key to recreating the bird in CG. The feathers set-up was divided into two sections – geometrical & fiber (default in Yeti). We had to be very careful to do not exaggerate with details, as it could have some negative impact on our work efficiency. Our goal was to find a balance between the number of details and the final rendering quality. We created a lot of textures for many parts of the falcon. It’s super worth to mention that one of the most important elements for every CG model of a bird is a proper and anatomically correct wing movement, meaning–especially – spreading and folding the wings. There’re a lot of traps in this stage that has to be solved in rigging level.

Anna Kuczyńska:
The rig that we work on a daily basis, had to be modified with a few new functions – focusing on the big feathers on wings and the tail, (these were actually the only ones not created with Yeti). We could animate every, single feather groups of feathers, which allowed us to keep the movement reliable and help our animators to control the rig.

Jarosław Handrysik:
Our deadline was just around the corner and we really had to focus. Apart from Patrycja Boś, who was responsible for model and textures, our animators Anna Kuczyńska and Marcin Orzechowski did a gigantic work by doing their best to recreate the wings movement from the photograph’s references. At the same time, we were working on texturing, rigging, feather dynamic tests, shading, lighting and the initial rendering.

The team assigned to this project was quite small, so we didn’t avoid over hours, but (I hope) everyone very much enjoyed working on GMC. I personally think that this commercial was super interesting, beautiful designed and directed. I have huge respect for everyone involved, as we all had a huge heart for it, and luckily, we all managed to swim ashore, on a boat with not that much water inside.

 

Credits:
Client: GMC ARABIA
Director: Stewart Hendler
Agency: Prodigious
Production Studio: Optix Mena
Producers: Myriam Abi Wardeh, Sami Saleh, Zeina Daoud
Postproduction Studio: Juice, Optix Mena
Producer: Jurand Szela
CG Supervisor: Marcin Orzechowski
Storyboard: Magdalena “Zazu” Kułaga
Animation Artists: Anna Kuczyńska, Marcin Orzechowski
Modeling / Texturing Artists: Patrycja Boś, Piotr Koczan
Compositing Artists: Szymon Jaskuła, Przemysław Czapla, Paweł Białowąs, Krzysztof Łucki
Grading Artist: Szymon Jaskuła
Matte Painting Artists: Tomasz Świżewski, Szymon Jaskuła
Grooming / Lightning Artists: Jarosław Handrysik, Tomasz Gugała
FX Artist: Kamil Kryński

Studio Focus: Universal Production Partners

Universal Production Partners (UPP) is an award-winning visual effects & post-production house based in Prague. Since being founded in 1994 they have grown to be one of the largest and most versatile studios in Europe focused on pushing the boundaries of technology and art with a strong vision for storytelling, directing and CGI.

With a wide range of services provided, UPP’s VFX supervisor and Head of 3D for advertising Mario Dubec shared some thoughts (and beautiful imagery) about how and why they having been using Yeti over the last few years.

“At UPP advertising we have been creating CG animals for years, and since some of them have required realistic fur we’ve had to keep researching and searching for the best suitable tools to create it. In the old days, we have used extensively Shave & Haircut plugin for Maya and in some cases native fur tools in XSI. As new tools were appearing we had our fair share of experience with Maya Xgen and Houdini native fur tools as well. But currently, our grooming artists found Yeti to be most flexible and user friendly yet still partly procedural tool to groom the animals.”

“The main catalyst for using Yeti in our recent and ongoing fur projects was ease of setup, simplicity of nodal approach and flexibility to do constant adjustments which are so important in the look development of creatures until very end of the project. Another advantage is how light the groom setup is on the scene and how well the plugin communicates the data with our most used Arnold renderer.”

“So far we have not reached such a limitation of Yeti which would hold us back or motivate us to look for alternative solution for creating fur. Another advantage is also flexibility to change the underlaying model during the grooming process without necessity to redo the whole setup or go through painful steps of setup transfer. And as our artists work simultaneously more and more with Houdini as well, the nodal & procedural approach allows them to stay in the same mind-set while utilizing Yeti in Maya.”

Don’t miss UPP’s animal reel which is available to watch on their website.

Yeti 3.5 is here!

Yeti 3.5 is here and it’s one of our biggest point releases ever!  Our team has been working hard to introduce great new features to help with productivity and integration.

Alembic Logo

We have implemented support for Alembic into the core of Yeti for both importing and exporting geometric data.

For importing – a new File node has been implemented that will read both curve sets and mesh data from the specific Alembic file, along with any additional arbitrary attributes, that may be modified and referenced by down stream nodes. Our aim is to expand support for additional geometric formats in the future.

For exporting – we have expanded our caching commands to include writing the evaluated results of graphs to Alembic file(s) with multiple samples for motion blur purposes and either having all the data stored in one monolithic file (and for fur this can be truly monolithic) or on a per frame basis. Density and other graph options can be controlled from the command line.

 

OpenImageIO

Continuing the adoption of amazing open source projects, our internal texturing system has been completely replaced with OpenImageIO – besides added format support it also provides additional efficiency when reading a large number of high resolution texture files.

 

Volumetric Guides

We have introduced a new default Volumetric guide model which provides a more intuitive result with additional visual control over the shape and clumping behaviour with the option to switch to the previous Shape Matching model for backwards compatibility.

 

Parting, Switch node and more…

Additional highlights are the new Automatic Parting, a Switch Node, Projection based texture coordinates for feathers, Density based relaxation and the list goes on!  Check out the release notes for details.

 

Last but not least, we’d like to remind our lovely friends to the south that Yeti is now available world wide (including the US) – enjoy!

Please note:  This is a free upgrade for all 3.x users. 

 

Crafting wings for Good Omens

We are huge fans of both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett here at Peregrine HQ, so were thrilled when Amazon / BBC announced that a new Good Omens mini series was coming to their respective platforms.

The fine artists at Milk Visual Effects were involved in bringing the the authors prose to life on screen – including the wings for the leading characters.

The teams CG Supervisor, Adrian Williams and Senior Groom Artist, Matt Bell kindly shared details on how Yeti was used in the design and creation of these digital supernatural plumages.

“Demon Crowley (David Tennant) and angel Aziraphale (Micheal Sheen) both have large and impressive black and white wings (respectively) when seen in their real forms in the Amazon /BBC’s new comedy-drama Good Omens adapted for the screen and helmed by Neil Gaiman. Initially, our concept artist Grant Bonser designed bat-style wings for Crowley but Neil Gaiman preferred to have feathers for both the demons and angels.”

“We built each feather based on swan wings – which was most appropriate to the concept. We started building the feathers in geometry so that we had a map for our groom team to develop each feather. The wings were laid out in an anatomically correct way, with primary feathers (the long finger like feathers that feature at ends of wings); secondaries (above those on the ends of the wings) and coverts (top wings / fluffier wings). The wings were then re-groomed into feathers using Yeti. We modelled in a swan’s wing bone structure and this was then all passed to the rigging team to ensure the feathers folded correctly and worked well together. Working together, the groom, modelling and rigging and animation teams refined the wings, referencing heavily the way a swan’s wing physically folds and behaves to ensure that when doing our wing simulations, everything behaved realistically.”

“To help with rigging we extracted curves down the centre of each of the geometry feathers and converted these to fibres. The feathers were instanced to these fibres and scale determined by the curves length. A duplicate of the wing curves was then incorporated into the rig and our groom curves blended to these so as to match our animation. We created over 20 separate feather variations so as to give realism to the groom and feather orientation controlled by using the geometry’s surface normal as our up vector in conjunction with curves Yeti twist attribute.”

“We decided to create the wing texturing in the look development phase. It was all shader based so that we could have complete control over colour variants and no one feather was the same hue, to break up the overall look making it more realistic.”

“Getting the right balance of iridescence on the black feathers and then ensuring the white feathers had enough detail and variation to stand out was challenging. We spent time in the look development stages tweaking the shaders and then when we got to actual shot production we were working very closely with Neil and our groom and creature effects team so that we were able to get a look that he and Douglas were really happy with.”

“Some of the shots needed to have a bespoke groom set up as we soon realised that when the animators were posing the wings at some angles they would not capture the correct shape or volume that was required for that specific shot, but this gave us the freedom to sculpt the groom and make sure that none of the detail was lost and so the wings looked and felt a part of the actors as they progressed thought the scene.”

Yeti was also used for the digital neck and head extension of Adam’s lovable pet, the Hell Hound.  A big thank you to the Milk team and you can watch Good Omens on Amazon’s Prime Video now.